Bias alert: I designed these shoes myself.
Well, at least I picked out the colors.
The venerable Speed Cat driving shoe is now available for order at the Puma Factory, an online service that lets you chose the colors and materials for seven different components of the shoes, and have them custom made to your specifications.
I went with a motif that included “patent vegan leather” formstrips and “buttery leather” uppers, but may have overdone it on the blue, which I used for everything but the outsoles. Suede is also available, as are pixel-style formstrips called “discotheque” and “crinkly leather” lining, among other choices.
The rendering showed a bit more contrast between the materials than the more monochromatic Smurf-like reality that showed up in the mail a few weeks later, but overall I was pleased with the result. I do like blue.
The shoes themselves are the classic Speed Cat design, which dates back to a time when driving shoes were optimized for just that. Despite their adoption as a fashion accessory in recent years, these shoes were not made for walking. The soles are paper thin, and the arch support is so non-existent that it’s like having a black hole under your instep.
Get in a car, and impressions change quickly. This is a very form-fitting shoe, just the thing to squeeze into the tiny footwell of a classic European sports car. Not having one of those handy, I took them along on a test drive of a 2013 Aston Martin Vantage on my way to Monticello Motor Club for a few laps in the Vantage GT4 racecar. No, I’m not complaining.
The Speed Cat may be low tech, but the way your foot rolls on its well-shaped heel cup as you work the pedals really can’t be any better. The soles are very narrow, however, and a widely-spaced accelerator and brake can present a challenge for heel-toe downshifting, even for size 12s like mine. But as I tried to keep the two-pedal GT4 on the black stuff, my feet were the last thing on my mind. Perfect.
The price for the Puma Factory Speed Cats is $100, plus shipping, compared to about $75 for the standard-issue version. That premium is on par with what you pay for similarly customized shoes on offer from the big brands, and seems reasonable enough if you really want to match a pair to your favorite Friday night outfit, but your car is a more preferable template.
Full Disclaimer: I paid for these shoes myself. Puma was unaware that I was buying them. Also, I really like blue. Obviously.